Archive for June 2003

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

June 28, 2003

Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-2003-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-Johnny-DeppWhat you’ve heard about Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is more or less true: the movie exists for Johnny Depp and wouldn’t exist without him. Given a role in a big-budget Disney film, Depp goes at it as though it were a private, subversive experiment; he plays the scurvy pirate Jack Sparrow (“Captain Jack Sparrow,” he always clarifies) as a gay Gary Oldman (think Drexl in True Romance) channeling Hunter S. Thompson. His mannerisms are so specific that when co-star Orlando Bloom, as the comparatively bland hero Will Turner, briefly mimics Jack’s loopy motions, it gets a big laugh. Like many another great farceur, Depp stylizes Jack’s constant drunkenness, achieving a kind of addled grace.

The rest of Pirates of the Caribbean is competently mounted if essentially uninspired action-adventure, with some anti-climactic moments, some cavernous dead spots, and a generally sputtering pace. The premise is that a crew of cursed, undead pirates are looking for the final piece of Aztec gold that will lift their curse. Political daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) possesses this piece, which she plucked off the semi-conscious body of Will Turner when they were both children. Will, a blacksmith now, loves Elizabeth from afar, but skunky imperialist Norrington (Jack Davenport) claims her hand, with the approval of her obsequious governor dad (Jonathan Pryce).

The dynamic is familiar: the sincere Will is Luke, the imperilled Elizabeth is Leia, and the disreputable scoundrel Jack is Han Solo. Pirates of the Caribbean comes closer to the uncomplicated thrills of the original Star Wars trilogy than George Lucas’ own recent Star Wars attempts have. When the movie sticks to simple pleasures — like the deftly choreographed duel between Will and Jack (hey, where’s Grace and Karen?) when they first meet — it’s fine. But the script suffers from the common clever-writer affliction of forced linkage, wherein everything has to be connected in some way. A late-inning revelation about Jack, for instance, diminishes his stature as a flawed, human anti-hero, and the bitter history between him and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the commander of the zombie-pirate ship the Black Pearl, feels a bit rote.

POTC is amiable fun (if draggy at two hours and fourteen minutes) but almost instantly forgettable, except for Johnny Depp’s running self-amusement. Director Gore Verbinski seems to lack focus and personality; he’ll direct any high-concept stuff you toss his way, whether a kiddie farce (MouseHunt), a romantic comedy (The Mexican), a remake of a Japanese horror smash (The Ring), or now a screen version of a Disneyland ride. Verbinski and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Shrek, Treasure Planet) are serviceable second-tier hacks who lucked into big hits and now appear to have sworn never to endanger their status as rainmakers.

A pirate movie — especially a modern one like this or Cutthroat Island (much more fun, I thought) — has the advantage of those massive, suicidal sea battles wherein two ships float within yards of each other while firing cannonballs back and forth. (One neat moment: Jack’s crew runs out of cannonballs and has to load the cannons with whatever comes to hand.) There’s the obligatory sailing-in-a-violent-storm bit, and much growling and baring of rotten teeth, and poor, delicately beautiful Keira Knightley gets passed from man to man and ship to ship while stifling in a tight corset. Bah. Give me Geena Davis’s freewheeling pirate queen in Cutthroat Island any day; helpless purity is hard to care about.

If POTC is to be remembered, it will be for the effortless skewed professionalism of Johnny Depp, who has become one of our great chameleons and one of the most honorable and inquisitive stars in the business. Depp approaches Jack as a colorful supporting role — the movie’s main arc belongs to Orlando Bloom, who doesn’t do much here that he didn’t do as Legolas — and he throws vanity to the wind and creates a surly wreck of a man who nevertheless can rise to the moment and turn into a fierce warrior. Conceptually, the character is tired, but what Depp does with it has the restless energy of a hungry character actor trying to break through in a big summer movie. Depp, however, doesn’t care about breaking through; he’s done that already. He just wants to keep himself interested and entertained, and he takes us with him.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

June 27, 2003

Have any actresses been indulged with as much sincere and relentless affection as the stars of the Charlie’s Angels movies? Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore (also one of the producers), and Lucy Liu show no signs of been-there-done-that in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, the sequel to the 2000 hit; once again, the tone is that of a giggly, sweetly knowing, megabucks slumber party, and when I caught it on opening night the audience of mostly teenage girls was alive to the Pez-colored daffiness. Like a hard guitar riff wedded to a poppy dance beat, these movies exist somewhere between Joan Jett’s and Britney Spears’ renditions of “I Love Rock and Roll” — albeit closer to Joan, thank goodness.

Wild child Dylan (Barrymore), dorky Natalie (Diaz), and cool Alex (Liu) continue their empowering, gently feminist adventures: they eschew guns, they dance and eat with equal avidity, and, when provoked, they kick nine kinds of ass. (Significantly, their opening number this time out — a rescue mission at a Mongolian tavern that winks at Raiders of the Lost Ark — depends more on guile and retreat than on defensive violence.) The boys — including the returning Luke Wilson and Matt LeBlanc, both as nonplussed as ever (LeBlanc is never funnier than when Lucy Liu has literally thrown him for a loop) — mainly take the role of Boyfriend, much as women in male-oriented action flicks fill the job of Girlfriend. It should be noted, though, that the men — except for Justin Theroux as a brutal heavy with an impenetrable Irish accent — are handled with far more care and respect in the Charlieverse than women can expect in many a testosterone bash. In these films, nice guys finish first. Even Crispin Glover, popping in again as the Thin Man with the hair fetish, is given room to have a change of heart.

The plot is some nonsense involving a pair of rings encoded with the identities of people in the Witness Protection Program (one of whom is Dylan, hiding from her misspent youth). Strangely, for a movie that finds time to tip its hat to Marion Ravenwood, Cape Fear, Flashdance, MC Hammer, Terminator 2, Blue Crush, The Fast and the Furious, and Christ knows how many other pop-culture landmarks, Full Throttle never branches out into Lord of the Rings tribute (perhaps because these comediennes’ sisters across the pond, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, have already presented probably the wittiest LOTR skewering ever). So our Angels either have to protect the rings or retrieve them — I’ve already forgotten. Aiding them is the movie’s new Bosley — Bernie Mac, in for Bill Murray, and funnier and looser than Murray, who made do with what he was given in the original but seemed a bit constrained (he already had the modern classic Rushmore under his belt by then, and may have felt he was regressing).

It turns out that Bernie Mac’s Bosley is actually the brother of Murray’s Bosley, who grew up with an African-American family (add Steve Martin’s The Jerk to the list). Director McG and his writers see no reason why that shouldn’t be feasible, nor why Lucy Liu’s starchy dad shouldn’t be played by John Cleese. Full Throttle is turbo-charged bubblegum fun, but it’s more affable than knee-slapping, and I only got two hearty laughs out of the evening — once when a black kid sasses Bernie Mac (“Do not mess with the black man’s do!”), and again when John Cleese, wildly misinterpreting the nature of his daughter’s mysterious work, looks crestfallen nearly to death, and then, hilariously and rather touchingly, forces himself to accept the idea of Alex as a ravenous call girl. “Whatever makes you happy,” he sighs.

That could’ve been McG’s motto as a director on both of these adventures. Cameron Diaz loves to wiggle her butt to cheesy music? McG slams on the movie’s brakes so she can do so. Drew Barrymore wants flashbacks to Dylan’s bratty days as a face-painted wrestler and a hooting monster-truck driver? Not a problem — Uncle McG gets the girls what they want. He has proven himself a master of the highly specialized field of explosive girl-power blockbusters; time will tell whether he has other shots in his cannon (though I don’t see any Harold Pinter adaptations in his future), but I doubt that any other director could have delivered the Charlie’s Angels films with as much verve, enthusiasm, and obvious love as he has. Or as much imaginative wham-bang showmanship: some of the over-the-top action here stands shoulder to shoulder with the set-pieces in The Matrix Reloaded, without the tedious white-room exposition.

The movie is even kind to Demi Moore, making a comeback as a cold-bitch former Angel with preternaturally white teeth. Now 40, Moore looks sensational in the bikini she wears in her first scene, and the camera genuflects to her even as the script demonizes her (the character commits the worst sin imaginable in the Charlieverse — she turns her back on the sisterhood). Moore has been absent from the screen for a few years, disregarding Hollywood and raising her three daughters, and the hiatus seems to have done wonders for her — she no longer has the humorless drive to succeed, to be taken seriously, that has marred her past work. She’s here for the ride, and everyone working on the movie is thrilled to have her along, and you can feel her relaxing into the proceedings. A scrapper by nature, Moore lets go here and moves with the flow, resulting in her most likable performance yet, despite the razory vixen she’s playing. This formerly clenched and forbidding actress may yet have a future in light comedy.

28 Days Later

June 27, 2003

Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later seems to have a lot on its mind — it was originally released (in Britain) right when SARS reared its ugly head — and that’s part of what’s wrong with it. It feels too now, too ripped-from-the-headlines, to pass muster as an enduring work of horror. And it moves not unlike one of the shambling, flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead. The comparison is apt: In terms of narrative beats, 28 Days Later is like Romero’s Dead trilogy compacted into a slim omnibus, though the boogeymen here are not strictly “zombies” — they’re alive, but infected with a virus identified only as “rage.” Screenwriter Alex Garland probably intends you to complete the quote with “against the dying of the light” — this reflective, post-millennial creepshow takes time to stop and sniff the corpses. Rage does seem to be all the rage lately — exhibit A would be Hulk, not to mention X2‘s most popular character, the berserker Wolverine — but the rage here is as impersonal and unmotivated as a tornado. Rage without meaning, as a dramatic trigger, is a bit of a cop-out in times of painfully meaningful rage.

In any event, after a genuinely eerie prologue — rage-infected lab monkeys (who’ve been fed large doses of televised newsreel violence in addition to whatever they’ve been dosed with; the Ludivico Technique in reverse, I guess) contaminate a group of animal-rights activists who’d hoped to liberate them — we settle into the post-apocalypse. Head-wounded bicycle messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes in hospital to find he has the place, and most of London, all to himself. After much wandering about on deserted streets (shades of Abre los Ojos and its American remake Vanilla Sky) and many echoing, unanswered shouts of “Hellooooo,” Jim encounters a hard-boiled survivor couple: Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), who save Jim’s life and waste no time filling him in on the backstory of the catastrophe, in the jaded, this-is-how-it-is-kiddo tone familiar from movies like this.

More wandering about leads them to a father-daughter pair, Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns). And after yet more wandering about — I’m being intentionally vague here, and also intentionally repetitive; the film’s midsection is surprisingly slack and dull, interrupted on occasion by grainy, incomprehensible spasms of violence whenever an “infected” shows up — the survivors run across a band of military men, headed by the sinister Major West (Christopher Eccleston). Like Whitney Houston, Major West believes that children are our future, though in a slightly different context. His idea is to put Selena and the underage Hannah in foxy dresses and leave them to the tender mercies of his crude, priapic soldiers. Spread your legs or else mankind will die out — boy, guys will say anything to get some nookie.

Like The Blair Witch Project, 28 Days Later will likely spook only the dabblers in the horror genre — the Saturday-night crowd of twentysomethings who go see it because the commercials on MTV look hip and edgy, but who haven’t seen the many films from which it “borrows.” Horror fans will yawn and check off the influences not only of Romero’s Dead trilogy but also his lesser-known The Crazies, and the premise of mindless automatons driven by single-minded antisocial urges was handled more effectively — and humorously — in David Cronenberg’s Shivers and Rabid almost thirty years ago.

The leads, except for the amiable Brendan Gleeson as a daddy trying to make the best of it for his little girl, are uniformly exhausted and one-note, without much personality connecting them to their pre-plague selves. The main heroine, Selena, has been made a strong, proud black woman (Pam Grier would’ve done it up with more sex and sass back in the day), perhaps to sidestep charges of racism. The military boys have captured an “infected” for research — too bad this plot angle has none of the pathos and wit of the similar storyline in Romero’s Day of the Dead, wherein a zombie named Bub was tentatively, movingly socialized — and the “infected,” a bug-eyed black man who thrashes and howls on the end of a chain, is an image to warm the icy hearts of white supremacists everywhere.

Indeed, I wonder how much of 28 Days Later — which, like 12 Monkeys, posits an apocalypse wrought by misguided activists — is really a right-wing paranoid fantasy in disguise. Horror movies, which often speak dark and disquieting truths, don’t have to be “politically correct” — they’re sometimes more potent if they toss politics out the window altogether — but what are we to make of this bitter vision of a future blighted by dissenters? Despite the nihilistic surface of most of his films (especially Trainspotting), Danny Boyle is a moralist by nature, and the moral here appears to be that the angry masses are not to be understood or reasoned with, but to be hacked down in their rows. An unmistakable — probably unacknowledged — strain of colonialist ruthlessness runs through this dystopian nightmare.

The survivors, a nuclear family of sorts, turn their gaze to the skies at the end, and the balance of order is restored. The image is of a military plane — British? American? — and you can’t help thinking that the bracingly pessimistic Romero might have had the plane unload a few rounds of napalm on the happy survivors, or, at least, a few daisy-cutters.

For all its grit and gore, 28 Days Later is every bit as much a reactionary, establishmentarian work as the horror movies of fifty years ago. It congratulates its heroes on their willingness to butcher both strangers and dear friends at a moment’s notice (when infection takes hold of someone, you have about twenty seconds to dispatch him), and rewards them with a hopeful ending. It was a hit in America; what that says about the national mood of fear-based hostility is considerably more frightening than anything in this rather feeble and derivative film.


June 20, 2003

A scientist — a mad, driven genius, who has already conducted illicit experiments on himself — torments his baby boy in the crib and looks on, mesmerized, as the squalling infant’s legs break out in a veiny rash of green. The baby grows up to be Bruce Banner (Eric Bana), a physicist unwittingly following in the career footsteps of his long-lost father; Bruce holds himself in tight, blocking himself off from close relationships, as if afflicted by sense memories of those crib days when anger led to physical deformity and misery.

What a strange and fascinating contraption Hulk is. This movie about repressed emotions and repressed memories is itself repressed: It withholds the main attraction — the roaring green Id, the Hulk, smashing everything in sight — for at least a full hour. The art-house director Ang Lee would seem, at first glance, an odd choice for a summer blockbuster about a green creature of rage. But repression has been Lee’s dominant theme — from the virtuosos locked in by duty in Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to the would-be romantic and sexual adventurers thwarted by societal designs in Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain. Lee approaches the decades-old Marvel Comics character as yet another wanderer in the void, denying who he is and what he wants.

Bruce, in the major change from Hulk canon as set down by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the comics, and then by Kenneth Johnson in the popular TV series, falls victim to gamma rays, which in themselves don’t change him; test subjects have tended to explode in the lab under the gamma rays, and Bruce might have too, if not for the mutation he carries in his own genes. Screenwriter James Schamus, revising earlier drafts by John Turman and Michael France, adds a twisted father-son layer to the narrative — the sins of the father, and so on. The father, David (a scraggly Nick Nolte), is a monstrosity of scientific inquiry — the type of cold intellectual who tests his theories on his son. The elder Banner, just released from a 30-year stretch in prison, has been busy: He has three canine companions, vicious little things that get more vicious — and huge — after he doses them with a serum.

Some of the movie could be a little fresher. Bruce has a fluttery relationship with scientist Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), whose father is the blustering General “Thunderbolt” Ross (Sam Elliott); General Ross is in cahoots with slimy ex-officer Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) to claim Bruce’s research for military purposes. Eric Bana, another Australian actor breaking out in America, manages to look both strong and weak — close-cropped, wet-looking hair; pained soft eyes; features just this side of chiseled. He can’t get much going on with Jennifer Connelly, who continues to come off as completely empty, and the various forces weighing on Bruce’s mind result in a rather humorless performance from Bana.

Still, the movie gets one very important thing right: the essential sadness of the Hulk. As a child reading the comics, I used to feel sorry for both Bruce and his towering counterpart, each forever doomed never to know the other, bound together in fear and contempt and endless retreat from men with guns. The movie’s Bruce, however, feels almost exhilarated by what happens when his Jekyll gives way to Hyde; the sexual impaction of this buttoned-down, fearful man letting himself rampage and destroy is hard to miss.

And what of the artificial Hulk, as far from a green-painted Lou Ferrigno (who gets a sly cameo here along with Stan Lee) as inhumanly possible? As with Gollum in The Two Towers, the computer-generated Hulk is too fantastical to achieve full realism, despite his designers’ devotion to detail. We accept him, though, as a heightened projection of rage, and he’s effective in his gentler moments. I can’t deny the visceral thrill of watching the Hulk fling tanks around or literally spit metal at helicopters to bring them down, but this Hulk is more about the traumas that preface destruction. Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott, twin gray remote fathers warping their children and growling at what they’ve wrought, are the true dark stars of the piece.

Hulk climaxes on a phantasmagoric note that didn’t quite do it for me — it plays like an Off-Broadway father-son confrontation that morphs into a light show. Still, this jagged and highly unstable work, bubbling in a stew of Freud and crackpot science, is the oddest mix of concussive escapism and psychological duality since Tim Burton’s Batman. It may disappoint action fans, but it’s not really for them.

Hollywood Homicide

June 13, 2003

Hollywood Homicide looks dangerously close to the sort of high-concept “levity” that Sylvester Stallone engaged in — remember Oscar and Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, or have you suppressed the memories? — when he figured out that nobody much wanted him as an action hero any more. Harrison Ford has been altogether too grim in recent years (in his flop K-19 he went so far as to adopt a Russian accent), so the movie feels like penance, his way of showing the suits that he can still crack a smile and goof around. I never thought I’d see the day when Kurt Russell (who certainly deserved it) got the lead in a serious Ron Shelton movie (Dark Blue) and Ford starred in a Ron Shelton comedy, but there he is.

Shelton, who wrote the script with Robert Souza, seems to approach the movie as Dark Blue Lite. Once again we have a grizzled California detective (Ford) paired off with a rookie (Josh Hartnett here); once again the theme of cop fathers and cop sons is explored. I can’t say why Shelton has temporarily (one hopes) abandoned the genre he has all to himself — the intelligent minor-league-sports movie (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup) — in favor of cop films, but what works in Dark Blue also works in Hollywood Homicide. Shelton knows how weary men talk to each other, and he knows the importance of sharp women in their lives. The unstable camaraderie of cops, for Shelton, is not so different from the bond between athletes.

Still, this is going to go down as one of the lesser films in the portfolios of Shelton, Ford, and most everyone else involved. The mystery of what possessed Shelton to cast Lou Diamond Phillips as a undercover cop posing as a hooker named Wanda is eclipsed only by the mystery of what possessed Phillips to take the role (maybe he’s doing penance). Smart beauties like Lena Olin (as Ford’s psychic-hotline girlfriend, whose precog skills come in handy) and Shelton regular Lolita Davidovich aren’t given much to work with; this is a jostling boys’-room comedy, wherein odd couple Ford and Hartnett try to solve a hip-hop murder while deflecting the best efforts of skunky Internal Affairs honcho Bruce Greenwood (who’s going to become the next William Atherton if he isn’t careful) to boot Ford off the force.

Only in a movie are cop partners so ostentatiously different from each other. It goes beyond a generation gap: Ford’s a no-nonsense, steak-and-beer guy who brokers real-estate deals on the side; Hartnett watches his diet and has his own sideline as a yoga instructor and aspiring actor. As an only-in-Hollywood portrait of detectives, this sort of makes sense, but there’s little evidence of any mutual respect or affection between the two. Ford interacts better with pros like Keith David as a fellow cop or Martin Landau as a music producer who worked with some of the Motown greats Ford loves (the best bit in the movie is when Ford gets home from his two jobs and sways to “Tracks of My Tears”).

Hollywood Homicide uses its milieu for some amusing cameos (look, there’s Frank Sinatra Jr. as a lawyer! Hey, that’s a Monty Python alumnus getting busted for solicitation!), and there’s some perverse pleasure in seeing Ford, Landau, and hip-hop artist Master P sharing the same table. The movie is harmless and sometimes funny (I laughed out loud at Hartnett’s crash course in Zen delivered to a couple of dismayed kids), with dialogue sharper than that of the average American comedy, but it devolves into the expected car chase and shoot-outs, and feels more than anything like the pilot episode of a mid-season hour-long comedy-drama on CBS. As for Harrison Ford, maybe it’s time for him to cut to the chase and do something small like Stallone’s Cop Land. It might not work for him, as it didn’t really work for Stallone (who fell back into action cheese), but at least it would nudge him out of the rut he’s been in for about fifteen years now.


June 6, 2003

Lucky McKee’s May is the kind of movie I don’t want to review so much as psychoanalyze. Rich with neuroses and psychoses, this strange and ornery work of horror is likely the most gripping geek-girl-gets-even narrative since Carrie (and its star, Angela Bettis, also headlined the TV remake of Carrie). May Canady (Bettis) has been dominated since girlhood by two things: a lazy eye, which crosses unless she wears corrective glasses or lenses, and a creepy doll made by her mom as a girl and then passed down to May. For a long time, the doll is May’s only friend, until she meets veterinary coworker Polly (Anna Faris), an avidly sexual lesbian who hits on May at every opportunity, and studly mechanic Adam (Jeremy Sisto), with whom May falls haplessly, and unrequitedly, in love.

Those influenced by the poster art may go into May expecting more of a surly goth-horror anthem than it is. This is a horror movie only in the sense that, say, Secretary was a romance. In both, damaged and self-hating young women find something that works for them, though in May’s case it involves something much darker and bloodier than Maggie Gyllenhaal’s comparatively sunny journey. Most of the movie is about feeling left out and undesirable, and though we’re in May’s corner at the beginning, when she makes her sweetly gawky moves on Adam and gives herself over to the heady process of considering herself worthy of loving and being loved, May passes a certain point beyond which we really can’t go with her. Her obsessive, needy behavior becomes painful to watch. Like Taxi Driver, the movie locks us in with the main character and then forces us to watch her unstoppable psychological decline.

Consider the odd “romantic triangle” May finds herself part of. She loves Adam, who thinks of her as a strangely alluring potential partner, but no more than that (a horror fan, particularly taken with the work of Dario Argento, Adam “likes weird” and finds May interesting more or less on that basis alone, until she gets too weird). She acquiesces to same-sex contact with the lascivious Polly, but Polly doesn’t really love her either — she’s all too ready to toss May over for a hotter chick if one should present herself. There’s no chance of security in either of these relationships, but May, accustomed to being alone, pursues them (or goes along with them) possibly because she’s grateful for any attention. When she’s rejected, May turns herself into the cold-eyed goth of the poster art, and Angela Bettis’ transformation from fumbly geek girl to self-assured, smooth-talking murderer is startling. We look at her now, with sharp object in hand, and find almost no trace of the old, hapless May.

Lucky McKee writes and directs all of this with an unemphatic straightforwardness that tells us this material is no big deal to him — on some level, he’s lived it (for instance, the press materials inform us that he, too, had a lazy eye). Though it goes for all-out gorehound style near the end (most unfortunately in a scene involving the scissor death of a doofy punk guy named Blank, played by James Duval, once again getting killed by a troubled misfit as in Donnie Darko), its heart remains in the convulsions of mind, not flesh. It takes its obsessive cues less from Argento (name-checked several times here) than from David Cronenberg, and indeed, watching the film, I thought to myself, This is what Carrie might have played like if Cronenberg directed it — less bombastic and gory than creepy and upsetting. May proves that fresh new work can be done in the horror genre if the director follows his or her own shadowy muse rather than tries consciously to fashion the next big thing in horror.

And Angela Bettis’ performance, a true brave oddity that dares to beg our sympathy and dares even more to trash it, is so on-the-money that it makes me want to catch her in that Carrie remake. I daresay, though, that the remake will preserve less of the downtrodden flavor of Stephen King’s book than this lesser-known little gem. The Carrie remake smells like an attempt to pour old wine into a hip new bottle; May is the real thing.